Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Budget challenges

As Southend Council starts to consult with members and the public to identify significant budget savings for the coming year I was given food for thought by an e mail from a local resident who asked "..since you have now scrapped free swimming for the over 60s what are you going to do to ensure that those who can't afford to swim will exercise as otherwise there will be blood on your hands." Obviously I explained that the subsidy had been cut across the country by the Government and that in the present climate we could not fund it from the Council's resources, but it also got me thinking about what the public expects from the public sector. We live in a great place with good parks, long beaches and other green areas all around us. Is it unreasonable to suggest that there are plenty of places to walk or cycle which are great ways of getting or keeping fit and other than the cost of a pair of shoes or a bike are free.Surely the trick is to help people to help themselves and not expect everything to be delivered on a plate by the Government or local council. We can then concentrate on those who can't help themselves. On the same theme a resident complaining about the frequency of litter collection in his road seemed dumbstruck when I suggested that perhaps the real problem was how to educate or persuade people to not drop litter which would then avoid us all meeting the massive cost of getting a contractor to pick it up! Perhaps this is what they mean by the Big Society.

Village Green

This Saturday will see the 3rd Village Green event at Chalkwell Park. This is a great cultural celebration which provides a fantastic day out for everybody. I visited the park yesterday to help hundreds of other residents generate some pedal power which will run one of the stages. If you have the time why not pop down for half an hour to do your bit. In the meantime let's hope for good weather on Saturday. This is another example of what makes Southend a special place to live and follows a succession of fun events throughout the summer.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Labour's budget games

What a surprise! - The Labour Group on Southend Council has announced that it will not participate in the confidential member discussions on possible budget cuts for next year. In every budget debate the opposition parties whinge about the fact they are allegedly excluded from the budget process untill decisions have been taken by the Administration. This year they have been given the chance to contribute at the very beginning of the process and to influence where the difficult decisions are being made but have refused to do so.Perhaps they are too busy! What is the point of electing councillors who fail to take advantage of important opportunities to represent their residents? Of course they can always repeat their tactics of the last 3 years - make no suggestions or amendments to the proposed budget and simply vote against it. So much for constructive politics! Let us see if the other opposition parties take advantage of this chance.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

West Leigh School traffic plans

Proposals have been published which would be funded by KeyMed and are designed to make access to West Leigh School safer as well as reducing traffic stress in the area. They include preventing access into London Road by the lights next to the school which would allow the removal of a phase of the traffic light sequence and improve traffic flow along the A13. This works to the advantage of residents as the easier the traffic flow along this main road the less the incentive for rat running. Some residents are expressing concern so we await the outcome of the consultation with interest.

Leigh Marsh Car Parking

The new extended car parking facility on Leigh marsh is now open but I am not convinced that the charging rate of £1 is right. All that it is doing is providing cheap commuter parking and undercutting the railway car park. Whilst the charges levied by the railway are, in my opinion, ridiculously high and hardly encourage usage, it was not the purpose of the extended council car park to provide cheap parking for commuters but to ensure adequate and safe parking for leisure users. I will be pressing for the rates to increase at the begining of the day but then to reduce. This should deter communter use (or at least get a reasonable return if this persists)and provide car parking for residents wanting to visit the area for walking or other leisure purposes.

Hospice on Belton Hills

I have already raised my concerns on this blog with regard to the plans announced by Fair Havens to relocate their hospice from Chalkwell Avenue to the green belt on Belton Hills. As the plan becomes more widely known I have received contact from increasing numbers of residents who are opposed to it. Fair Havens does great work for the local community but to encroach on this important open space just doesn't make sense. I will continue to encourage them to find an alternative site which we can all support.